Putting your best foot forward

Best Foot Forward

Chances are that you have recently missed a marketing/advertising opportunity. Consider this, when was the last time you sent out something simple like a newsletter or even a thank you card or postcard? Did you send these items out so quickly that they
didn’t even have your company name or logo? If you didn’t focus on their content and appearance you missed your opportunity.

The key function of marketing/advertising efforts is to gain visibility for your company. This is a never ending process that is very important if you want to make sales. Most companies have dedicated departments to the implementation of these processes.

There are many strategies for developing and maintaining marketing and advertising efforts. There are rules that can be followed and guides that indicate the norms for which companies accomplish their client outreach goals. You may have a method of advertising that you are using right now. However there are still avenues and opportunities that are being overlooked.

When your company’s visibility and exposer is the objective then the client/customers impression is essential. The client’s first impression might hook them however you have to keep them wanting more. The same efforts that are created to market potential client/customers should also be continued for those who have been with your company for many years.

Take for example a simple notification letter that you are sending out to inform a client/customer. You may overlook the opportunity to impress the client in addition to advertising your company. Even a notification letter can be seen as a prospect to place advertising/marketing materials for all of those who view and or handle it.

Everything that comes out of your office should follow the same creative attention to detail as a national ad would. This is your business and you want it to shine so put your best foot forward with these following techniques and ideas.

• Successful Advertising links your marketing collectively. Mention your blog in your newsletter, your newsletter in your social media, your social media in your flyer, your flyer in your business card, etc. Connect them all as much as possible for more successful promotion.

• Spend the extra time and money to have a designer put together several letterheads, invoices, product reports, etc. Have several designed so that you can switch them up with different messages and graphics, keeping them interesting to new clients as well as existing ones.

• Content is very important. Not only the content of the information that you are sending out, that of the added marketing/advertisement as well. Use several different slogans that can be easily remembered and that refers to your business.

• Include photos to attract the reader’s eye. Vertical photos are said the draw more attention then horizontal. The larger the photo the more copy the person will read. Make sure that the photo matches the content that you are including. Also use captions as people read captions more often than text.

• Identify your company. In every piece of material that comes from your office there should be two things. Numerous ways to contact you and your company logo.

• SEO – In web development search engine optimization is very important. It is a set of key words that are connected to your business. They describe who you are or what you do. These key words can go further than the internet. Use them in your material to get your client/customers connecting you with those words.

• Lastly, have fun with it. Client/customers can tell when you really enjoy what it is you do.

Happy marketing!

Better Business Branding & Integrated Marketing

Many companies have a vague understanding of integrated marketing. But when it comes time to create their marketing plan, they often miss the mark when it comes to the immense possibilities. Sadly, a better grasp of the goals and strategies of integrated marketing would greatly improve the results. An understanding of brand identity and a customer-eye view of products or services are primary concepts that often go overlooked.

Integrated Marketing is a strategy designed to communicate with your client base and create outreach and brand exposure. It used to be as simple as having a TV ad or your business name in the Yellow Pages. Today, it is more important to communicate “with” your customers rather than “at” them. Engaging them in a variety of ways helps to build a relationship.

It often takes two points of interest before someone acknowledges your brand. This means that you need to be connecting with existing and potential clients on their level — where they are. To many, this sounds like a lot of extra work, but it doesn’t have to if you are already using those avenues as part of your integrated marketing plan.

The plan brings together all of your marketing efforts into one cohesive strategy. It’s a process of bringing cohesiveness to individual campaigns and operating them as a single entity. All of the different methods used to reach the client need to have the same basic message.

Here is a helpful way to get started on your integrated marketing plan. Answer the following questions;
• Who are you? What makes you special? What sets you apart from your competitors?
• What do you sell? Think beyond the product or service. What is it you are truly providing your customer?
• What is your relevance? Why does your company and product matter to your customer?

Answering these questions will help put your brand and your business into perspective. What you discover can be used to generate messages to be promoted across the marketing strategy. This way, messages sent through direct mail, social media, and ad campaigns are consistent and your customer is comfortable in their knowledge of your company.

Knowing how to communicate with your customers is an important aspect of this marketing strategy. Opening these lines of communication is another vital element. As I mentioned, there are many different ways to connect with your clients. Integrated marketing focuses on connecting them all.

Get started with your integrated marketing today with these simple steps:
• Brand Everything – always use your logo and tagline.
• Incorporate a Call to Action – tell the customer what to do next.
• Include Contact Info – offer different ways your customer can get in touch with you.
• Integrate – Link all forms of contact
• Don’t Forget Analytics – analyze data to track and shape your progress.

All marketing materials need to be consistent. Keep the message clear in all forms of advertisement. This doesn’t mean that the same images should be used on all materials, but the same look and feel should thread through all materials and give a hint towards similar elements with coordinating messages.

When sending out advertisements, remember to let your customers know the many ways that you are marketing. Include newsletter signup with your email shout-outs. Add Facebook and Twitter ID’s to your flyers. Tell your social media fans when you have updated your blog or redesigned your website. The key is linking all of your communication, and you only have more customers to gain!

Happy Marketing!

Is Social Media Enough?

Why only using Social Media doesn’t cut it.


Social Media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are very helpful in a company’s outreach efforts. Sites like these allow businesses to interact with their customers and even bring in new clients. Yes, it can be very thrilling to see a post go from 4 to 150 “tweets” or “likes.” However, many companies are relying solely on these sites for their marketing/advertising efforts and neglecting more traditional forms of marketing. The question becomes this: Is relying exclusively on social media enough for your company?

The answer to the previous question is a resounding NO. Even small businesses need to be involved further than just keeping up on their tweets. It is important not to forget traditional methods of marketing. Indeed, the advances in technology have changed much of the methods we now use to send and receive information. The fact is that long-established forms of communication still exist and may have a greater impact than you would expect.

There are several advantages to using traditional marketing techniques. For example, print advertising gives credibility to the sender. The internet is full of information and it is difficult to determine which sources are reliable, whereas ads placed in a newspaper are rarely questioned. By employing traditional tactics, you are also connecting with a larger audience. Limiting your tactics to Facebook and Twitter means you are only connecting with potential customers who use social media.

It’s necessary to recognize that social media marketing and traditional marketing are avenues to the same goal. In fact, they produce much better results when used simultaneously rather than individually. The idea is to combine the two strategies into one integrated marketing/advertising plan. Use your newly combined strategy to drive sales and generate leads. Try the following ideas to get you started:

- Update Your Signage – Provide all forms of contact and communication (name, address, phone, website, Facebook, and Twitter).

- Stay Consistent – Keep the look and message of all marketing processes congruent to your brand.

- Call to Action – Tell the customer what you want them to do (visit our website at www… or check out our blog at www…).

- Get Started – Mail out a postcard featuring your latest promotion. Provide highlights and add that more information can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and your website.

It is hard to ignore the lure of social media marketing. It is fairly inexpensive and highly popular. It is definitely a strategy that should not be overlooked. However, it is easy to get caught up in the growing popularity of the online world and forget that marketing once existed without Twitter and Facebook. Remember, social media does not complete a marketing strategy. It is an added component to the marketing process.

Overcoming challenges for small business websites

Website development and design is part art and part science. Let me explain.

A website must be built not only for human consumption but also machine consumption. It needs to read one way to humans (i.e. be aesthetically pleasing, easy to read, accessible) but also needs to read another way to computers (i.e. properly structured, easy to navigate, good technical framework). Nowadays, not only does your website need to work on a computer but it actually needs to work on different types of operating systems, browsers, mobile devices, etc., depending on your target audience’s reach.

Unfortunately, to most small business owners’ chagrin, a comprehensive marketing plan doesn’t stop at hastily posting a website on the internet and leaving the core of content up to someone up to pen together. How does a small business owner overcome some the hurdles of a new website build without breaking the bank?

  • Make sure that you get to know the person who is working on your new site. Do they understand basic design principles as well as the technical build itself? Be weary of commissioning someone who is a specialist in one and farms out the other aspect elsewhere. If you can find someone to integrate the process (ideally, one person or at least a two-person team) that would be ideal.

  • Is your developer pulling their WAIT or pulling their WEIGHT? Sticking to the original proposed budget (both in money as well as timeline) will save you both headaches. If your designer/developer works odd hours (most do), make sure you give them all of the information they need beforehand so that they don’t have excuses!

  • Never assume that the designer/developer is working on just one project at a time. Most of them juggle at least five or six simultaneously. If you expect exclusivity you will have to pay for it.

  • Try not to get too involved. I know, I know, you’re paying for it and deserve to have your say. However, you have to understand that you have commissioned the help of an expert. So, let your expert do their work! If you have a question or concern, ASK. Designers/developers generally left to do the good work they are commissioned to do will naturally gravitate towards the projects that lack “helicopter” clients. If you give them room to breathe, they will generally do amazing work!

  • Don’t assume that your designer/developer can read your mind. If you already getting a sense that they are not a good fit for either your aesthetic or work style, ask what the severance terms. Some may be happy to release the work for the price of a down payment, whereas others will try to keep working with you until you’re happy with your product.

  • Send the shortest emails you can. If you can send your revision requests in a short, bulleted emails there will be less room for interpretation and more time for working! If designers/developers see an incredibly long email they generally shelve it until they finish their myriad of little tasks first so that they can focus their energy. Unless you want to be LAST in their priority list, I advise against sending epic emails.

  • Unless you’ve enlisted the help of a communications or marketing agency, don’t assume that your designer/developer can do it all. Although Unicorn Press specializes in the design, marketing, and branding process, not every freelancer or company does. Screen their references and scrutinize their portfolio before asking.

The website design process can be tenuous. Hopefully these tips will help it be a little less stressful!

5 Tips on Making The Most Of Conferences

I recently had the wonderful privilege of being able to scrape up enough funds from my business development budget to attend the annual Blog World and New Media Expo. At first I was rather skeptical that it would be one of those other social media conferences where I be sold a bunch of hogwash on very elementary basics on the importance of using Twitter, how to set up a Facebook page for your business, or what a blog actually entails. Even despite the $400+ price tag, I wasn’t sure if it would actually be an informative experience for me. I don’t hail myself an expert (who is, anyways?) but nonetheless I knew that some of my friends from the blogosphere would be there, so it wouldn’t be a complete wash if it turned out to be a dud.

Despite my low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. The conference turned out to be absolutely amazing. It was a great blend of speakers with varied levels of experience and a multitude of backgrounds. So many different fields were represented during this weekend-long conference — Public relations, Marketing, Public Affairs, Defense, Info/Internet Tech, Business Development, SEO, as well as just plain bloggers in general — that it really did make the experience much more comprehensive and holistic. For the most part everyone I met lived terribly dynamic and exciting lives compared to me, and I only hope to one day scrape the tip of the iceberg in terms of my experience and involvement within this community.

I was prepared for the worst but lucky me, I got the best. However, not every conference is a completely mind-blowing, perspective-altering experience. Sometimes they are just okay, or a little less than exciting, especially if someone sent you there on their behalf to take notes and schmooze. Here are some tips on how to make the time go by just a little bit faster with those type of conferences:

Resolve to make just one new friend. It doesn’t have to be all business! Time flies when you’re having fun, so make some good conversation for a little bit and see where that takes you. Maybe they’ll introduce you to someone else they met and it’ll segue into something meaningful later on.

Make an effort to go talk to people for just fifteen minutes. If after fifteen minutes you are still not having a good time, remove yourself out of the environment for a couple of hours and try again. (I usually find that after ten minutes I have a great time and then the day flies by!)
Ask (open ended) questions, even if you don’t really have any. By allowing someone else to talk your ears off, you’ll get a chance at picking up a nugget or two of information you wouldn’t have otherwise known. It can also be a good way to direct the conversation into something that’s more interesting or applicable to you.

Smile and try to make eye contact. I’ve gone to too many events and functions (especially ones that revolve around tech and social media) where people are on clicking away their phones. You can be on your phone at home, at the airport, or when you’re in line at Starbucks, but when you’re at a conference, you’re (ostensibly) there to learn and to get to know people. So, get your head out of the cloud (literally) and come hither in real life. Chances are, someone is dying to make meaningful conversation…you just need to show up on their radar!

Give in…just a little bit. If you get invited to an after-hours event or a quick post-conference get-together, try not to turn it down to just go back to your hotel room to take a nap. Not everything will be a pleasant exchange, and if you feel uneasy about the party/meetup/etc you can always leave. But, try to make an entrance before you completely shut out all opportunity and make your exit.

Also, since I too own a small business, I realize that sometimes the prices of conference ticket, compounded by airfare and accomodations, can be a bit out of reach for some. Most of the major conferences have a virtual version, where you can log in for a fraction of the ticket cost. I recommend that you attend some free ones before you commit to a paid version so that you can get used to sitting at your desk for more than a few hours at a time. (Make sure to check out Fortune Magazine and the American Marketing Association. They have some great virtual conferences a few times a year!)

This Year, Get VOKLE

Hey small business owners and freelancers!

It’s 2011 already. It’s time to get your business out of the stone ages and into the 21st century.

Yeah, you’ve heard that social media is important. Community engagement in real-time is also very important. Since time is money, and you have very little spare time to execute your marketing plans, what’s the most effective use of your time?

I say ditch the super-polished videos, structured-to-the-nines podcasts, and lengthy blog entries. Go live and get VOKLE instead. VOKLE is a great live audience interaction platform by which you can host your own town hall, talk show, gripe session, product demo, service pitch, etc. Through it you can also engage with your audience by taking video and text calls, co-host the show with others, bring on guest speakers, chat, and cross-post to your other social media outlets. At the low-low cost of FREE it’s a pretty low-impact way for small businesses and freelancers to add another dimension to current outreach efforts.

My favorite feature is the ability embed the show on your own website. People can log on to yourdomain.com and participate! They can even register for the event without signing up for a separate account, which drastically cuts the barrier of entry for your audience. Hooray for open and transparent web!

Do Guilt-Ridden People Make Great Leaders?

“The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.”
-Mark Messier

The Harvard Business Review recently published the research and defense of a psychological study that measured the correlation between the tendency to feel guilt and performance review. It turned out that people who are prone to guilt tend to work harder and perform better than people who are not guilt-prone, and are perceived to be more capable leaders.

I’m a pretty guilty person…not necessarily because I read the article and decided that I want to be labeled as capable or hardworking. It’s because I am and it’s partially fueled my motivation and drive to produce my best work. It doesn’t matter the dollar figure of the project or if I’m working on trade. Most of the time I (personally) feel guilty for not delivering faster, better, more, etc. The guilt can get crippling but I’ve managed to turn that negative energy into something motivating. When I feel as though I’m not performing up to my own expectations, I look to myself to remedy those issues before they manifest and/or fester into larger problems with my client’s project. The end result? I end up motivating myself.

A couple of years ago (right when I first started my business) a reiki/feng shui master told me a that I needed to drop the guilt factor completely. “It’s the lowest form of energy on the planet,” she said. She’s probably right, but had I listened to her then, I probably wouldn’t have powered through half of the things that helped me get where I am today! Leadership skills can be acquired through organizational leadership training and other leadership-focused degrees.

What do you think? Are you guilty? Do guilt-ridden people make great leaders?

Measuring The Value of Brands

Let’s talk numbers for a second.

“Marketers measure the value of brands in a variety of ways, including, monetarily – the dollar value the brand is worth to the company, or the premium price a consumer is willing to pay; customer satisfaction and loyalty and brand zealots; as well as building strong, positive brand associations over time.”

Let’s take Starbucks as an example. Admittedly they are a huge brand but there are multiple ways in which they can measure the value of their brand. I would measure their brand by assigning dollar values to individual properties — tangible goods, intangible goods, valuation, and general intellectual property — and then aggregating the total value.

Measuring the worth of tangible goods is relatively easy. For current equipment I would suggest amortization of the original purchase price since all of the equipment is used. I would value food inventory at the price in which it can be sold to the current customer base. Appliances generally depreciate less since they are speciality items (i.e. cappuccino machines, french press). Signage is a hit or miss: if the Starbucks name is surviving the merger or acquisition then it would be worth valuing. However, if the Starbucks name is not surviving then it may be auctioned off at a reduced cost. For the purposes of measuring brand equity I would value it as valuable wayfinding signage that are large-scale environmental lovemarks of the brand.

Intangible goods are also an integral part of the brand that carries great value. They are also unfortunately the most overlooked! You can value the current worth of vendor relationships, distributor relationships, customer relationships (not just the day-to-day customers but also those who are registered in the Starbucks Rewards program), employee relationships, endorsements, and partnerships with the projected worth against the current worth of those contracts. Through market research you can also measure customer-based brand equity and the likeliness and willingness of a customer to spend at a price premium based on brand. Human resources (skill and training of management and staff) are also sometimes overlooked but is very important when valuing a company: having a staff that is already trained and groomed for the business is very valuable and much less expensive to run compared to acquiring HR and training costs.

Drawing valuation from current cash reserves, stock value, marketable securities, and investments in stock and bonds, are also a good way to determine a small piece of the brand’s current financial valuation.

In addition to financials, valuing intellectual property, patents, trademarks (umbrella brands, sub-brands, product lines), licensing agreements, past mergers and acquisitions, loans, lease-to-own arrangements, royalties from product placements also adds a great deal of value to a brand.

How will you measure the value of YOUR brand?

Do You Really Need a Degree To Succeed in Graphic Design?

In short…kind of.

For people who are unfamiliar with the technology and processes of design — from the artistic form to the technical know-how necessary to execute ideas — going to school is one of THE best ways to learn. You have to choose your school carefully though. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting caught up in a program that doesn’t necessarily fit your goals or approaches.

I was lucky to go to a private art school for one (very short) semester. In that space of time I learned a lot about the art behind it. I spent almost ten years learning the science of it beforehand, and imitating what I saw in magazines and books. In that short period of time I was thrown in to the more artistic, ethereal challenges behind my projects. When I left that private art school and transferred in to a local state university, I was flabbergasted. Students were still learning to kern. They still tried to run RGB layouts through our four-color printer. They were designing booklets in Photoshop. They hadn’t the slightest cue about binding technologies, HTML, print production, etc…all things that I had essentially grown up with.

The traditional design school experience was very tough for me. I breezed through the coursework but quickly approached my two design professors and asked that they challenge me as hard as they could. (That they did…one drove me to tears!) In my experience it wasn’t the actual course work itself that taught me a lot, but instead my interaction with my professors and the internships with which they connected me. It was also in my dealings with my classmates, by being patient and helping them grow as designers through fair and honest feedback and critiques. It was in helping them understand that design was simply not just a pretty picture but a piece of visual communication that was to eventually be consumed by millions of people…and that it needed to be taken seriously.

What I also never expected was to deal with politics. Different professors had different teaching styles and their own philosophies about how to run their classes. When it came time to seek funding for an international project, I had to deal with the politics between departments, and getting recommendations. Some of the hardest lessons I learned in design school was knowing when to drop a design argument when it became apparent that it came down to taste; understanding that honey attracts more flies than vinegar; and that sometimes it didn’t really matter what other people thought — that if you could unequivocally defend your design, you were designing from an informed point of view. It was also really difficult for me to deal with rejection: I had applied to create my own masters degree program but was rejected on the grounds that my GPA was not high enough. (All credited to the hop-skipping of majors I did prior to switching in to design.) In retrospect that was a blessing in disguise: I would have missed out on the opportunity to work for a boutique ad agency and learn the reins of running a business from the inside out. I would have missed out on working with The Rainmaker Network. I would have missed out on starting my own company. I would have also missed out on enrolling in the degree program at Golden Gate, which has served me so well thus far.

No, it wasn’t the brand identity assignments or the poster designs or even the portfolio class that taught me a lot about the design process. It was the people. It was the patience that was required of me to finish the classes. It was learning how to follow protocol, even if I didn’t want to. It was learning that forms of expression require a process, and that there were no shortcut to success. Design school taught me that I would have to work hard, commit to goals, and set to achieving them if I were ever able to make something of myself.

What’s A Tweet Really Say About Your Brand?

If you’ve ever felt alone and isolated at work, you’re in luck. There is a pretty large and tight-knit community already buzzing away on Twitter. Because we pretty much sit at our desks all day, it only made sense that a real-time community would be built around social media. We are, after all, wired to the computer 24-7!

Twitter can be pretty overwhelming sometimes, even for the veteran user. With thoughts, emotions, and news flying at the speed of tweet, it can be difficult to keep up or even make a dent in the overall Twittersphere.

Pack your identity into a tweet by being:

  1. Witty: People on Twitter are pretty educated — Almost 75% of users have attended or graduated college. Whether it’s a good pun or a clever statement, craft your statement in such a way that it reflects how smart you are.

  2. Informative: The community consumes information at a voracious rate. If you find an interesting study, informative article, or some pearls of wisdom, share it. Information strengthens the community.

  3. Unique: Don’t go on a retweeting frenzy or link to articles all of the time. Let your true voice and personality shine through. You have a unique point of view. It’s valuable, so share it!

  4. Engaging: Talk to other people, pay some compliments, and get to know someone. Even a small acknowledgment tweet — i.e. “Good job!” — does a long way. Just make sure it’s genuine.

  5. Succinct: Try to keep it under 140 characters. Better yet keep it under 100 or 120 so that people can retweet your genius statement.

And, for the love of Goethe, don’t tweet in text-speak. It’s terribly annoying and turns off the entire community. If you want to be taken seriously, learn to say it in grammatically-correct English in under 140 characters. There’s nothing worse on Twitter than having great content and a great message but terrible execution.